Monday, April 13, 2015

Whoa, Nelly! BOE Meeting Agenda for Monday, April 13 at HMS, 7pm Gallops Toward Disaster; Parents and New Board Must Take The Reins

(Source: Wikipedia:

As we bloggers basked in the afterglow of the recent school board election results in D86 and D181 (minus one returning D181 BOE member), we had barely had a chance to radiate in the joy of our newly elected candidates when we suddenly began receiving comments regarding the state of D181 that we believe are dead on. You can see for yourselves under the most recent post dated April 8 . To top it off, we then received a comment related to the math acceleration plan that is listed on Boardocs for the Monday, April 13 meeting in which we discovered the following documentation from our own highly paid, master martyr Kurt Schneider:

Community Consolidated School District 181
CONTACT: Dr. Kurt A. Schneider, Assistant Superintendent of Learning
Sean Walsh, Director of Learning
Dr. Dawn Benaitis, Director of Learning
TITLE: Learning for All Plan, Math Programming
DATE: April 13, 2015
The Department of Learning has been working to update and revise the Learning for All documents/plan for the Board of Education. At the February 9, 2015 Board of Education meeting, a presentation was made on the proposed math programming for the 2015-16 school year. In this presentation, it was recommended that the vast majority of students would work with grade level content based on the implementation of the new Illinois State Learning Standards and the experience of the teachers using the newly adopted math materials. Students would also have access to above grade level content, as needed, through differentiated instruction.
While we anticipate the vast majority of students’ needs will be met through grade level curriculum, differentiated instruction in the classroom, and the newly adopted resources, there may be individual students who require subject acceleration. Tonight’s discussion focuses on the process to consider students who may need math subject acceleration to meet their needs.

But wait! Here is another document from Kurt and the Department of Learning:

Subject Acceleration 2015-16
Math subject acceleration will be considered for students who consistently require above grade level math content. Utilizing the RtI process, individual teams will make the decision using a collection of assessment data, teacher/team input, and parent input. Students must demonstrate strengths in all three (3) areas in order to receive math subject acceleration to meet their needs.

Student Assessment Data:
• A student’s overall MAP RIT must be 2 standard deviations above the district mean on 2 of 3 consecutive assessments
• A student must be above the district mean in the goal areas of Operations & Algebraic Thinking and Numbers & Operations (for the grades 2-5 MAP assessment) or Operations & Algebraic Thinking and The Real & Complex Number Systems (for the grades 6+ MAP assessment) on 2 of 3 consecutive assessments
• A student demonstrates mastery on the end of year grade level assessment (90%)

Teacher/Team Input
• Demonstrated application of the Eight Mathematical Practices
• Demonstrated motivation and perseverance with math content
• Demonstrated ability to work collaboratively with above grade level peers
• History of enrichment
• Successful performance on chapter tests and benchmark assessments
• Trimester grades
Parent Input:
• Parent support for above grade level placement
• Knowledge of student’s math ability
*This chart reflects a proposed implementation for the 2015-16 school year. Decisions for future implementation will be based on teacher feedback and student data.

Impressed? We didn't think so. Disgusted? Heck, yeah. 

Yes, folks; several of the polarizing-unabashedly-disconnected-huckster-supporting-BOE members are to "discuss" this math "acceleration" plan that actually contains little to no acceleration for our students. Sound familiar? Ahh, yes. Our faint memories now recall that the "Advanced Learning Plan" did not contain a plan for advanced/gifted learners. Remember? The ALP was actually a hidden tribute to what now is known as Learning For All (Some) that many of us would characterize as a colossal failure. And how about this: not too long ago 30-40% of our students were identified and received advanced or accelerated instruction. How will the needs of this population be met with this limited inclusive ideology? 

Our point is pretty simple: parents should attend this meeting or write to the current and eventually new BOE and make their concerns known. We believe the newly elected BOE members will be in attendance and they should hear parent concerns. And because of the importance of the acceleration issue and Learning for All (Some), we question why this topic is placed as the last agenda item in the Committee of the Whole meeting segment. Gee, is it because the agenda is packed full and the Turek/White agenda-setting tag team figures that many parents will leave the meeting due to the anticipated late hour in which this item will be brought up, if at all? Whoa! We're on to you guys and how you attempt to manipulate and control the agenda items for discussion.

And speaking of control and manipulation, we thought you would like to take a look at the newly crafted district organization chart proudly presented and endorsed by Don White himself. You can take a look at the actual chart here: Proposed Oranizational Chart , but this information appears in his justification:

Community Consolidated School District 181
CONTACT: Don White, Ph.D., Superintendent
TITLE: 2015-2016 Organizational Chart
DATE: April 13, 2015
The District’s continuous improvement process includes periodically reviewing changes in the types of administrative positions so that the District is better enabled to meet current and future needs. Gary Frisch’s retirement and Sean Walsh’s acceptance of a position in another school district gives me the opportunity to recommend administrative changes to better meet the needs of the district. A review of our current organizational chart was completed and several changes are being recommended for the 2015-2016 school year.
Discussion: The following bullets are a summary of the recommendations that are part of the changes in the organization chart.

• Ken Surma is appointed as the Assistant Superintendent of Business & Operations/CSBO. A copy of the job description is attached.
• The Assistant Superintendent of Information Services & Operations/CSBO position is eliminated.
• Mike Vilendrer is appointed to the newly created position of Director of Operations. A copy of the job description is attached. This will give Ken support as two departments (Business & Operations and Information Services & Operations) will now be within Ken's office.
• Mike Duggan is appointed as the Facilities Coordinator (which is Mike Vilendrer's current position).
• Create a new position titled Director of Assessments & Effectiveness. If approved, the person in this
position will be responsible for assessments and program evaluations. This position will be part of the Department of Learning. A copy of the job description is attached.
• Dawn Benaitis is appointed to the newly created position of Director of Learning (Curriculum &
Instruction). A copy of the job description is attached.
• Rocky May is appointed as the Assistant Principal at HMS (moving from the Dean position to the AP position).
Financial Impact: A detailed analysis of all administrative and exempt employees salary and benefits is included as part of the 2015-2016 salary recommendations agenda item.
Recommendation: Approve as presented.
03/30/2015 - Page 1 of 16

Hold the saddle. Are you asking the soon-to-be-ex-BOE members and current clueless remaining ones to actually approve  Dawn Benaitis to the "newly created" position of Director of Learning? And at what salary? And now Don White wants to add an assessment director, which is badly needed, in addition to the other positions in the Department of Learning?  And how about the other appointees and promotions? Are all of these justified? Where are the raise and salary reports that detail how much us taxpayers will have to shell out because of this new organizational structure?

We can just imagine the raises that are about to be approved for all administrators. And we would bet our last riding boot that the raises will be higher than what our teachers got.  

Folks, the time is now to voice your concerns. We know what the one-size-fits-all approach in our classrooms has provided our students during the past several years. Underperformance, as evidenced by test scores and lack of student growth (MAP). If the current BOE is clueless enough (they are) to approve the organizational chart, and praise the pitiful plan for "acceleration" for our students (we can already hear the accolades), then it will be up to us to voice our concerns  in person or through email. 

Or our kids will continue to trot along at an underperforming pace till they reach middle school; even then there is no guarantee they will be challenged based on the fully inclusive, differentiation sole strategy that is now documented for all to see.

Whew, we're saddling up now cause we're tired of stepping in it. See you at HMS Monday, 7pm.


Anonymous said...

I am so beyond disgusted, It is inappropriate for this outgoing board to make any personnel decisions. This outgoing board - with the help of Turek and White - is trying to lock the incoming board into personnel decisions that impact the budget. These decisions should not be made until the new board has a chance to review the budget and decide whether or not new positions should be added at all or perhaps even eliminated. It is financially irresponsible to make this move two weeks before the new board is seated. Can the new board undo what is done tonight?

Anonymous said...

I am furious. My child has gone through RtI and it amounted to nothing but wasted time. What a joke. Schneider knows full well this won't work, yet he's trying to save himself by continuing to ram L4A through the board. Let's just hope he doesn't get a multi-year contract like Benaitis.

Anonymous said...

Bloggers: This is so disturbing. Parents in this district have no idea what is being proposed and parents of younger children have no idea what they will be missing. Not only at the elementary level but also in middle school and high school. By the time they figure out what happened, say 3 years from now, it will be too late for students to catch up. Two years of being held back will have irreparable damage to students. As we've seen with this year's 5th grade class, even one year of sub-standard math can have a lasting impact. Despite district paid for tutoring for many last year, their scores still lag behind where they should be.

Anonymous said...

Why are Oak 5th graders getting privately paid for math tutoring 2x's/week after school?

Anonymous said...

Bloggers, any chance you can repost the comments about the meeting and math under this new post? If it's not too much trouble I think parents should see all of the concerns together. I am shocked that Dr. White could support a half-baked plan like this. Haven't we learned anything from the last 3 years? Do they really think that the purchase of math materials and a little teacher training is going to make this work for all students?

Anonymous said...

By re-shuffling the adminstrators around in the department of learning and giving Dawn Benaitis a new title, Dr. White is continuing to entertain himself by juggling his balls in the air as the school year comes to a close. While there is never enough money to support students and teachers themselves, he is proposing to add TWO NEW ADMINISTRATIVE positions. Unbelievable. Instead of firing the people who have not been doing their job correctly the last three years, Dawn Benatis and Kurt Schneider will be rewarded and given 2 more administrative level ASSISTANTS to HELP them. Now the state of Illinois will have 2 more new pensions to support.

Since their job responsibilities are being minimized, will their salary be minimized as well? Of course not! The board needs to NOT approve these ridiculous changes that Dr. White is suggestiing and demand that the old administrators are finally released to another district where their lack of job skills will be less harmful to our children and the taxpayers.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know why we weren't notified that the middle schoolers are MAP testing this week? I know we received an e-mail with the testing schedule several months ago but I was surprised when my daughter came home yesterday and said she had MAP testing. They just finished PARCC testing 3 weeks ago!!!

Anonymous said...

If Dr. White's ridiculous plan goes through, everyone should have their children opt out of the 2nd edition of PARCC next month. It is completely legal to have your child refuse it. (Look it up on this website) The PARCC is coming up right after MAP testing. Since our children, parents and teachers are already being financially and educationally punished by paying for Schneider and Benaitis' salaries and pensions, and now, will be expected to pay for aditional administrators to help that incapable duo, why should we be worried about another hundred thousand dollars? If there actually is a negative financial consequence for our children not taking the PARCC, parents need to play their cards and excercise their legal right to opt their children out of both the Parcc and the make up. If our district's administrators pay no heed to the financial and curriculuar ruin that Schneider, White, and Benaitis are leading us into, they WHY should parents worry about the miniscule amount of title one funding that we would lose after 5 years of consecutive drops in students taking the PARCC? The salary of one of those admnistrators alone would more than compensate us for the title one funds potentially lost.

Student's lost insturctional time is worth our money. It is a huge loss to US. There is absolutely no value in an experimental, first year PARCC test for which the district itself does not even know when or what the results will be. That is why they also make our children take the MAP testing. The poor administrative skills and decisions made by the motly crew of D181 administrators is the hugest waste of money and resources. We are all being punished financially by these folks, and now, are being forced to hire tutors to compensate for their years of terrible decisions. Tell me, when will the neglect of our children and our tax dollars end? What will it take to make D181 understand that we will no longer tolerate incompetence and inefficency?

If the district has no regard for OUR tax dollars and our children's educations, why on earth should we help them fulfill the extremely controversial and instructional time wasting PARCC test? If the district doesn't care that they are wasting our children's educations and limited time in school, why should WE continually pay taxes, compromise and cooperate? It is time to hit the the only place where it hurts them - their wallets. If instructing our children to refuse the PARCC test may potentially cost the district money, so be it. Dr. White should start realizing that it's our money and we do not approve of incompetent administrators wasting the money we have already given them.

Parents need to stand up against the wasteful administrative decisions of Dr. White that are slowly but surely deteriorating our public schools. D181 is robbing our community from other vital resources such as the police department, fire department, and public works.

Anonymous said...

Whoa Nelly is right. Why can't we get a normal superintendent and someone for curriculum who cares about education and not social justice. Which teachers are giving these people feedback?

Anonymous said...

Questions about the L4A program

1. I would like to see a chart showing the percent of each years class that d181 delivered to d86 that were prepared to enroll in each d86 math option over time: Algebra, Honors Algebra, Geometry, Honors Geometry, Algebra 2, Honors Algebra 2.

2. I would also like to see a chart that estimates these percentages for the years up coming, based on where students are today in the elementary and middle schools.

Updating these charts annually should quickly demonstrate whether we are on track.

Anonymous said...

Why do Dr. Schneider and Dr. White continue to try to prevent above average students from advancing in math while by Mr. Turek's own admission, those students are not currently being challenged?

I just do not understand that.

It would be fine if they were pointing to specific skills that students are lacking and need to be developed first, but that is not the case.

It is obvious that these students who are not being challenged and that when standardized test results come in, the top quartile will be gaining at a slower rate when it should be gaining at a higher rate.
Isn't that obvious to everyone?

I am glad that Mr. Turek stayed on the BOE so when the s*** hits the fan, there is someone there to take personal responsibility for the actions of the prior BOE and explain their incompetence.

Anonymous said...

Was the April 13th meeting the last before the new BOE is in place, or do we have one more of these?

Anonymous said...

These men forced the community and teachers to accept their advanced learning plan and now it's become a common core/social justice plan. They don't care about our kids and only about their inflated egos and the little power they have. I hope the new board will not abuse their power.

Anonymous said...

I just read the article in the Hinsdalean today concerning D181's new initiative on technology. What on EARTH is our district thinking? I suggest everyone re-read a post written a little while ago by The Juke is on Us. That post was spot on. Our district has much bigger problems than its students not being familiar with today's technology.

Los Angeles Unified School District was infatuated with Apple computer and Pearson products, too. If you are interested in how that school district feels about those two companies now, read this quote from the end an article from the Los Angeles Times' April 16, 2015:

“As you are aware, LAUSD is extremely dissatisfied with the work of Pearson,” according to Holmquist’s letter. “While Apple and Pearson promised a state-of-the-art technological solution ... they have yet to deliver it.”

In its letters, the district said it wants to meet this month to arrange “the dissociation from Pearson and recoup the costs of Pearson licenses that we paid for but have been unable to use.”

Board member Monica Ratliff, who chaired a technology committee that raised serious questions about the effort, said the district has been patient with Pearson but that time has ended.

“I believe that it is time for Pearson to either deliver on its promises immediately or provide us with a refund so that we can purchase curriculum that actually works for our students,” she said in a statement.

Officials have said they still want technology available as needed for classroom instruction and new state tests. And this week, the school board took a step to replace some of the online materials: It authorized the purchase of new math textbooks.

Twitter: @howardblume

If LA Schools has decided that they prefer books over technology, WHY are we spending $50,000 on a consultant who will obviously try to sell us an expensive tech plan? Our elementary schools shouldn't be allowed to get away with letting our children make videotaped presentations when they are still learning how to write. Children need feedback on the writing skills that the district constantly gives them standardized tests on, yet barely provides any instruction in! Last time I checked, MAP and PARCC didn't have an assessment on videography or website creation skills! Our children are already obsessed with technology. Children at HMS are already adept at turning in assignments online to their teachers. 3rd graders have been posting YouTube videos of themselves online for the world to see for years. The problem is the content and the quality of the work presented in our children's "innovative" technology is subpar. Instead of giving quick,written feedback on a paper document, how will teachers grade this new medium? As it is, my children hardly ever get any feedback on their work. What kind of feedback will be given on spelling, writing, and evidence support when it is not even written down in black and white for the child, parents or teacher to even ana;yze?

What do you think future employers and admissions counselors will be more impressed with: a child who can quickly, accurately, and concisely summarize information, or one who turns information into entertainment? One who speaks Spanish fluently, or one who needs to google to translate his Spanish homework? Perhaps once children in D181 have already mastered thier grammar, writing, and public speaking skills, say by mid-year of 8th grade, then, and only then, should they be allowed to participate in yet another innovative technology program. Instead of paying Ian Jukes $50,000, why didn't one of our administrators have the common sense to simply call up ANY other administrator or teacher in LA Country Schools to see how their experiment was going? The article in the HInsdalean is yet another glaring example of the poor leadership and wasteful spending at which D181 excels.

Anonymous said...

7:35 you are exactly right. The only thing ian Jukes shoudl be doing for our district is helping us to organize the technology we already have in the elementary schools. The well intentioned PTO's keep buying it but no one knows how to use it to improve student learning. It is all about fun and games and reading books. I, too, would prefer focus on grammar, math and foreign language. Instead we will get more ipads so that students can self-teach in inclusive classrooms who are too busy.

Anonymous said...

* with teachers who are too busy.

Anonymous said...

Every parent should spend about 30 minutes to google or YouTube search Ian Jukes. I doubt the District did any due diligence. From what I gathered, the guy has been giving the same tired speech since 2006, in which he argues that surfing the Internet will literally change your child's brain to make it different from yours. Because of this "change" today's schools are ill equipped to actually measure their 21st Century skills which are different from yours.

Tellingly, he provides no support for this theory. Though I did enjoy the cartoon of a neurotransmitter he projects behind him on a huge screen. Instead, he relies broadly on the notion of nueroplasticity which is basically the concept that the brain is not static and can find new pathways to process information. This is an important concept in brain injury cases, but not education. Even if it were important to education Ian Jukes fails to connect the dots or offerer any data supporting his basic premise that digital bombardment changes the brain. Moreover, from reading his bio I do not see any representation that he is a medical doctor, computer scientist, or the like. In fact, I'm not certain what the guy is qualified to do.

Finally, in reading the contact between Mr. Jukes and the District, it's not even clear what he will/can do for us. I can't believe the Board approved such a vague document.

The new Board should terminate the contact before it's too late.

Anonymous said...

i totally agree with 7:47. parents did not ask for this guy.

Anonymous said...

I should have typed "Contract," not "contact," above.

Anonymous said...

Parents of younger students should look into how much technology Hinsdale Central students use. Almost none. Hmmmm...

jay_wick said...

First, I know some students that have completed their high school education at Hinsdale Central and are now doing very well in some of the more demanding computer science programs at college. These students did take the programming classes offered at Central, include AP Computer Science. There are not many kids choosing that path but it can be a good one.

The broader question is how much longer can our community, including the PTOs and The D181 Foundation, spend money incoherently. Buying new hardware and then misusing or having it sit in boxes is an appalling poor use of funds. The worst part of the situation is, as demonstrated by the recent PARCC fiasco, that we simply do not have nearly enough appropriate machines for sufficient numbers of our students to go online and take advantage of the web-administered standardized tests!

I personally have been impressed with how much my middleschoolers can do with VERY inexpensive Chromebooks. While I fully recognize that these devices can't hold a candle to the capabilities of the sleek MacBook Pro and MacBook Air machines that our administrators tote around I must also question if the administrators are truly retouching high resolution photographs, editing feature films, animating CGI graphics, composing multi-instrument orchestral compositions or even authoring multi-chapter books that they need such powerful and costly devices...

I certainly will be attending the presentation of Ian Jukes. I know that with right kinds of follow-up this can be a valuable impetus to rethink some of the decisions that our district has fallen into regarding technology. The presentation, and the planned follow ups, have the potential to be about much more than hardware or any specific software or electronic textbook alternatives. Ideally it will motivate LOTS of parents and community members to really ask hard questions about what the best outcomes from the use of any materials in classrooms should be.

It would be naive to assume Ian Jukes will be some "savior", we will need Dr. White AND leaders from his central office staff AND leadership from the building principals AND some forward thinking teachers to all work HAND-IN-HAND with committed parents and community members to craft a more coherent direction for how the elementary schools and middle schools will get more value from the whole technology stack.

I know there are some folks that are skeptical but I would especially urge such folks to not grumble quietly but voice your concerns loudly and hopefully the incoming BOE will respond in a way that instills confidence in their actions.

Anonymous said...

I may be the only one, but I have to say that I would like to see a basic technology plan. It would be good if students can use an iPad or computer to access homework, turn in homework, and organize their work.

I do not think that it needs to cost a crazy amount, but it should be sensible.

I have to say that I have the opposite experience as you do, Jay Wick. The PCs appear to be inexpensive, but are broken down so often that they end up costing more in total. My experience is that cheap PCs are a lot more expensive than Macs over time because of all of the repairs and endless problems.

Anonymous said...


I don't think anyone outside the administration is assuming Ian Jukes is a "savior," as you put it.

To the contrary, the criticism is that he is an unqualified huckster. His "changing brains" theory is utter nonsense! This would be fine in a vacuum. But now the District is wasting our money on a guy that even a scintilla of research would have revealed as useless.

Look, I agree there needs to be a technology plan. But anyone listening to this Jukes character for 10 minutes can see he is not the right person for the job. Hell, a glance at his nondescript reveals he's not the guy.

Why are our administrators so bad at picking experts? Why does the rubber stamping board approve anything put in front of it, even if it's incomprehensible nonsense?